Be eager for more yet joyful where you are. I’ve grown accustomed to these words and sometimes they seem to open a path, and sometimes they seem to point to little more than an oxymoronic state? Because joyful encapsulates more than contentment, and eager more than optimistic. For at least some of the time, these two states appear mutually exclusive. It would appear impossible to wilfully anticipate more whilst being happy with what you have. You cannot seemingly experience joy for what you have now whilst you notice a gaping hole which is yet to be filled with something improved.
But we do understand it better than we give ourselves credit for. My first car was a 1.1 Citroen AX Chicago. J474 NAV was her license plate, if I remember correctly. Her grey overcoat had a white skyline trim on it that anchored her firmly into the previous decade. She had to start hills in the appropriate gear or be overtaken by everything as I lost minutes ascending the incline. She turned into a he when it didn’t start on cold nights with a temperamental manual choke. Her seats were slightly sunken in and the spots of rust were slowly gaining ground. At 75 miles an hour, her conscience used to kick in and she would vibrate all over (that and her tracking needed fixing!).
I loved every minute of my first car. Did I understand I wanted a better car? Sure. Was I impatient for it? No, I looked forward to the day but never felt like I had to pursue it, push it to come faster. Why should I have been when I understood that a replacement car would come at some point in my life? My relationship with NAV was deeper than that. Understanding that car’s little foibles was like being in a long term relationship. There was a satisfaction that I’d learnt how to maintain her, fix her and nurture her. I loved understanding the basic mechanics, having to pop the hood and trust myself to learn what made her tick over properly. She was my first real independence and first home I owned. And I was sorry to let her go.
I guess that I could be that happy because I trusted that a newer car would come at some point. I also knew that a car was never going to be central to defining me or my life or my direction. I was learning, I was independent and I could make choices and that’s all I needed to know. In time and a few life chapters later, she was replaced by a MINI One, British Racing Green, 1.6 and brand new. I would have to look back over old photos to tell you that registration. It was a stunning car and a dream to drive. I’d wanted one since they’d launched and I was lucky enough to be able to make it come true. This MINI didn’t judder every time it went beyond 75mph and it started every time. This MINI cornered like a dream and brought me a new love and appreciation for driving whilst having to be able to get from A to B promptly. Driving was now functional, but the MINI brought pleasure to that function.
Somehow it seems easier to understand progress with tangible things than mental and emotional states, and that’s a scary statement to be able to make. Right now, our culture asks you to constantly fix your gaze ahead. Where do you want to be at the end of the year? Where do you want to be in 5? Does this career change fit your plan? Is this partner the one who will sit with you for a lifetime? There’re always voices asking you to pick holes in where you are today, to review the present in relation to a future you haven’t lived yet so you can drive harder to get to a ‘better’ place. I get the value of a big picture, I really do. But I question its incessant application to your life chapters.
I think when I was a kid, I believed in a magic tipping point. That you would hit a certain age and all the jigsaw puzzle pieces would pop into relief: maturity and adulthood – done. Now I know that isn’t true and that, everyone has to start somewhere and that all progress is progress. But more importantly, the journey is a big part of it – it’s actually all of it. Life isn’t hitting goals to get to the next. It isn’t lusting after the next level of career and life. When I arrived in Australia, I chased everything as if my life depended on it. I chased it all so hard that it nearly broke me and I rarely lived a single day. I recover to this day.
I know where I am heading and I trust that I am on that journey, I just don’t want to miss any more of the scenery of where I am now. It’s hard not to get caught up in the momentum of others, but I prefer trying to be happy where I am whilst knowing that there is SO much more to come. And it means trying to accept all the bad with the good in the context of the improvements that will come, somehow, sometime. I wish I were as good as dealing with challenges in life as I was with NAV’s foibles. Sometimes, I wish I were as good with not flooding my brain with thoughts as I was with the manual choke with NAV, but I will get there. And as I pick my way, in our land, I risk coming off as complacent, hippy (as a derogatory term), unambitious or apathetic. I would hope that I am none of these. But I just don’t want to subscribe to chasing tomorrow so hard that I miss all my todays.
We usually lose today, because there has been a yesterday, and tomorrow is coming.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe